Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blessed

I'm thankful for all the friends that I have got to know in this beautiful game of APBA Baseball, due to our love for this great game known as Baseball...

I am thankful for my site, I am thankful for the rolling, I'm thankful for all the tournament fun....

I am thankful for my Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League, I am thankful for my Baseball Card collection, my APBA cards...

I am thankful for wonderful cat Isabelle, I am thankful for the roof over my head, the food on my plate, the clean water in my glass...

I am thankful for the most beautiful woman in my life in Becky Elizabeth (Ebright) Baier, who made me the luckiest man on the face of the planet, who loves my passions, who completes me, who balances me all out; She's my best friend, and I am so fortunate to have her by my side....

I am thankful for my overall good health, the blood that pumps through my veins, the air that I breath, under the blue suburban skies; I am thankful to live in such a beautiful, blessed area as here in Northern Michigan, I am thankful to make a living, even if its enough to just get by....

I am thankful for all this, due to you my lord offering his only son to die on the cross for all of us.
What a sacrifice, in the grand scheme, rolling a 66 is nothing comparable to what Jesus did.

Always thankful.

God bless everyone, and stay safe during your holiday travels
& most importantly be thankful & feel blessed for what God has done for you.

Shawn

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Twin Cities Around Corner

It's that time of year again for the Neil Ess Memorial - Twin Cities Area Baseball Tournament (TCABT-V), and this year is their biggest group of contenders yet! 30 players will be rolling the dice in their quest to win that beautiful trophy.

The event starts 8:30 am on April 2nd (Saturday) -- The Twin Cities tournaments happen twice a year -- Always the first Saturday in April & October.


As always there is some fun teams selected for the event, and with all APBA tournaments, its always about the fun at these events between all the players & creating new friendships through the game that we love.



Good luck to everyone, we can't wait to hear of the results!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Champions, Chops & Huge Hops (Part III)

For the 3rd consecutive series, I won the dice roll to choose home field or not, I chose to keep with my team opening the two-game series on the road, while playing the designated hitter.

This time, my opponent, is my friend Ron Emch, who I have had the pleasure to meet in last year's Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament; Last year, we split 1-1, while my 1917 Chicago White Sox played his 1954 New York Giants -- He won the division that I was in last year.

Ron would also be my first tournament rematch, in my tournament career & this time our match-up may cause others to have a strange case of double vision. Ron brought the 1998 Atlanta Braves, while I am playing with the 1993 Atlanta Braves. In five years, the prospects of 1993 in Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko & Javy Lopez would become bona-fide stars by the time of the 1998 team... while some of the vets that helped bring the Braves to prominence in Sid Bream, Mark Lemke, Terry Pendleton & Ron Gant would be long gone. Yet, both teams have familiar faces in the big three -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine & John Smoltz with Bobby Cox at the helm.

GAME 7 at 1998 ATLANTA BRAVES


Double Vision: Maddux vs Maddux in Game 7 of the tournament.
The game had two yearly versions of Greg Maddux go head-to-head, while both sported the same grade A-XZ. It was the 1993 Braves to strike first, Gerald Williams made an early error and Ron Gant singled to right to advance the runner to third (Gant would steal second) -- With runners on 2nd & 3rd, the "Crime Dog" Fred McGriff smacked the runners in, on a single.

Both Maddux versions were far from perfect, my Maddux overall may look good on paper, but he would allow five walks -- while Ron's Maddux would allow 11 hits, and have only 2 K's; Both pitchers would pitch the entire game. We joked that regardless of what happens -- Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves would end up winning the game.

David Justice would score an insurance run during the top of the 6th, with a solo home run to give the 1993 Atlanta Braves, a 3-1 lead.

The 1998 Atlanta Braves would break the silence, with a solo HR by Chipper Jones -- but that would be all the scoring the 98' team would do; The 1993 Atlanta Braves would add another run and win the ballgame, 4-1.

Interesting Stats: Sid Bream reached base all 4 plate appearances (3-for-3, 2B, two singles & a walk, with a RBI), while Jeff Blauser also added 3 hits.

GAME 8 vs 1998 ATLANTA BRAVES (at ATLANTA)

The 1993 Atlanta Braves (6-1) at this point are officially in the driver's seat in the Carl Yastrzemski Division, while other division participants are trying to figure out they have a shot for the wild card slot or not. Not used to being on the winning side, I was still waiting for the wheels to fall off at some point. The next game would create another new challenge for my team to overcome -- pulling off a late win, after surrendering an early lead.

This match-up would see the match-up between Ron's #2 Tom Glavine (Grade A-Y) against my tournament #2 starter in Steve Avery (Grade B-YZ); Glavine for me, is my #3, who is preparing for the 1981 Cincinnati Reds next -- John Smoltz has been strictly a reliever for me in this tournament run, due to having the most experience of the bunch, plus I wanted to use Avery's control Z rating in starting match-ups; Smoltz is a Grade B-X for the 1993 Atlanta Braves.

The game was quiet through the first two innings until, the 1993 Braves scored three runs during the bottom of the 3rd; Ron Gant (two-run HR) and Fred McGriff hit back-to-back HR's to give the 93' Braves, an early 3-0 lead.

Steve Avery's B-YZ would advance to a Grade A-YZ -- I decided to keep Avery out there for the 9th, in a bid for a complete-game victory; Avery only allowed 3 hits through the first 8 innings, but would allow 3 hits, that would all score, while 93' Braves' reliever Steve Bedrosian would give up the game-tying hit to Gerald Williams in his attempt to secure the save. The 98' Braves' Andres Galarraga set up the game-tying RBI with a two-run double in the at-bat before against Avery.

Bream loves playing hero role.
The game would go to extras, both teams would strand runners in crucial moments, and the game could go either way. At this point during the tournament, Rich Zawadzki was getting all of our attention for it was lunch break -- while keeping our ears out, and knowing that time is crucial, Ron and myself kept rolling.

The 1998 Tom Glavine would pitch 12 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 walks & 3 runs, while striking out 8 batters from the 93' squad. Tournament rule - All pitchers go to Grade D once entering the 13th inning, the 98' Braves call on Dennis Martinez; All looked good at first for Denny, as he got two quick outs from the 1993 Braves...

Then David Justice drew a walk, followed by a Terry Pendleton single, to advance the runner to third. With 2 outs & the winning run on third, Sid Bream (playing hero the night before with a walk-off HR in an exhibition against the 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates) delivers the winning hit, a single to right! Walk-off single in the 13th!

The 1993 Braves would complete the two-game sweep & improve to 7-1.

Interesting Stats: Jeff Blauser had his 2nd consecutive game with at least 3 hits; Fred McGriff hits his 3rd HR of the tournament. Sid Bream was hitless through 5 AB's before his walk-off single. Not sure if this goes into "Interesting Stats" section, but there was plenty of times when I did go to second columns, that I resulted in a measly single -- which Ron pointed out as well.

GAME 9 at 1981 CINCINNATI REDS

My next opponent was the 1981 Cincinnati Reds led by APBA roller, Ian Kabell; Kabell is a methodical player that really knows his boards and stuff when it comes to APBA -- it was a lot of fun playing against him, as well as all my other division mates. These 81' Reds is one of the better teams in the aftermath of the 'Big Red Machine' -- Ian compared it to something that of a car still with its shiny surface, but completely gutted out.

Complete control for Major Tom.
At this point of the tournament, and after sweeping Ron Emch's Braves, it was clear that I was heading to the playoffs, we still were not sure if we had any wild card teams coming from the division -- loosing both against the Reds may help someone get a shout, but that was not to happen.

The funny thing about battling the Reds, I had to face his #1 Tom Seaver and #2 Mario Soto (Ian still had one more two-game series to play); Seaver & Soto are members of my NXPL Detroit Tigers team -- We are currently playing the 1982 season, my second season in the league & I was pretty aware how both pitched in 1981 as well.

Both games in this series would be uneventful for most part -- the best part was playing Ian and getting to know Ian.

Tom Glavine would be in complete control, besides his solo HR that he allowed to Ken Griffey in the 4th Inning -- but that would be the only hit he would allow through 6 innings, he would pick up 4 strikeouts and a walk in his 3rd win of the tournament; Glavine was the star of the game, although Sid Bream continuing on from last game, would add 3 RBI.

Interesting Stats: Nothing in the game itself, besides Ian Kabell having the boards memorized to a "T" -- pretty impressive really.

GAME 10 vs 1981 CINCINNATI REDS (at Atlanta)

Soto Act: Mario dominates Braves.
This was probably the worst game in the entire tournament for my 1993 Atlanta Braves, but the least crucial -- I would say the worst lost at its time was my beat-down in Game #5 against the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, because there was far more at stake. This game against Cincy, had no bearing on my playoff hopes, it only zapped by run differential a bit, LOL!

Ron Oester got things started early for the Reds with a solo HR off of Greg Maddux during the top of the 2nd Inning. The next inning, Oester whooped us again, but this time with a two-run double, to make it 3-0; Dan Driessen would break open the game with a two-run HR in the very next at-bat, to give the Reds a commanding 5-0 lead.

That's all that Mario Soto would need, as he silenced the Atlanta bats through the late 6th inning, when Deion Sanders broke up Soto's bid for a no-hitter with two outs; Soto would finish with a two-hit shutout, as the Cincinnati Reds won 8-0!

Interesting Stats: Dan Driessen would go 2-for-4 with 2 two-run homers, while Ron Oester finished with 3 RBI.


* * * This concludes PART III of the Braves Tournament run, to be continued... * * *

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Boys' First Round Results

The Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League's 2016 BoS Annual Draft is underway, and are now through 6 rounds.

Let's take a gander at the 1st Round results -- Pretty similar to most leagues with the Rookies; I believe everyone will come out a winner with these picks, and there was many 2nd Rounders capable of first round status... Afterall, 2015 was considered the year of the rookie!


Some people were surprised that many of the starting pitchers went early, I was not surprised by this, pitching does make winners, and you can never have enough pitching, although these position players were definitely no pushovers, and aren't your ordinary first-round position players -- these players are uniquely special. Seriously, in what other draft did a guy as powerful as Kyle Schwarber go 14th?! Francisco Lindor fell to 7th!

A pretty impressive first round!

NXPL Update: Tigers at Top

After 20 brief games, and too early to get overly excited about, my 1982 Detroit Tigers in the NO-EXPANSION BASEBALL LEAGUE (NXPL) are in first place at 15-5. The league has no division setups and where we are in the old league set-up, in which we actually fight for the pennant.

Lance Parrish has been a beast on offense (.377, 5 HR & 14 RBI), while my pitching has been lights out (1.72 ERA)! I don't really have a designated closer, kind of doing the reliever by committee deal; Dave Rozema currently leads team with 3 Saves, while 4 others have contributed a save each.

My batting has raised its average up (after sluggish start) to .239 -- while players like Bill Madlock have started to heat up; Madlock is batting .282 with 2 HR & 9 RBI -- last series against Boston, he went 10-for-23 (.435), including a game where he went 5-for-5, with 2 doubles & a RBI.

A look at my pitching staff, I highlighted my top 3 starting pitchers, they are red-hot as you can tell...















Next we host the California Angels who happened to be in third place, only 2 games behind at 13-7 -- The Baltimore Orioles are just a game behind.

More news to come...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Champions, Chops & Huge Hops (Part II)

The Big Three wait for their time to play someone during delay.
After finishing Game 4 in the tournament against the Mike Pryson's 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers, there would be a break in the action for both of us, since the other 4 participants in our division were rolling against each other.

The break for me was equivalent to that of a starting pitcher wanting the rain to stop during a rain delay; I was happy with my rolling and did not want to cool off. Talked with a few APBA guys about my 4-0 start, and their advice was echoing Mike's advice, "You are in good shape, just tread water and you should be good." For me, 4-0 was the magic number I wanted to start off in this tournament; A 3-1 start, although good, would have had me looking over my shoulder a bit more, eventually maybe resulting in my team cooling off.

During the break, news of a second no-hitter started to travel. The first no-hitter of the day took place in the opening half-hour of the tournament by Robert Mosher's 1988 New York Mets & David Cone. When I asked about the second no-hitter, who done it? Someone pointed to a table, where a boy was sitting -- I recognized the boy as Cameron Shaeffer (Mosher's grandson); Shaeffer pitched one with the 1916 Detroit TigersStan Coveleski (nearly pitching a perfect game, first batter drew a walk in 9th).

The biggest highlight was what happened after, moments later, I ran into Robert, and I looked at him and said "You didn't tell me that your grandson also pitched a no-no!" -- and much to my (and Robert's) surprise, Robert's face lit up with joy, and he said "He did?!?"

Cameron Shaeffer (left) & his grandpa Robert Mosher, both deliver no-no's in the same tournament.
Nothing will top that, to see the joy in a grandfather's face of an accomplishment by his grandson -- Proud papa, and a family sharing the love of APBA. 

When APBA action for myself continued... it was now time face off against the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers; This team would give me a bit of a scare & the challenge that I needed. These power teams such as "Harvey's Wallbangers" will make any starting staff look silly, and Bob McCurdy would make me sweat with his dice-rolling through the first 14 innings of the series.

GAME 5 at 1982 MILWAUKEE BREWERS

The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers were easily one of the two most dangerous teams in the division, that I definitely needed to have my 'A' game on; It certainly wasn't going to be easy, that's for sure. If I remember right, Bob was on cruise control and was entering his 7th & 8th games against me -- So it would be his #1 against my #2, while in the next game it would be his #2 against my #3.

So for our first game, it would be Steve Avery for the Braves, facing Pete Vuckovich (1982 A.L. Cy Young Winner). Bob and I spoke of Vuckovich's card and the fact that he was just a flat Grade B was a bit surprising for a Cy Young Winner, I completely agreed at the time -- but now looking at Baseball Referrence.com, my only guess is that it may have something to do with his high 1.502 WHIP, which means he avoided trouble quite often & had luck on his side; I do know APBA has certain formulas they like to follow, even if sometimes their pitching grades would have us scratching our heads. The two prime examples of decent grades for so-so and worst stats for myself, may be Jeremy Bonderman's C-YZ for 2007 Tigers (11-9, 5.07 ERA) & the recent Drew Hutchinson card, graded C-Y for 2015 Blue Jays (13-5, 5.57 ERA).

Money was money in series opener vs ATL.
It would be Steve Avery though that would experience trouble in this one, after taking a 1-0 early lead, the Braves would surrender the lead with a two-run homer to Marshall Edwards in the bottom of the 2nd Inning -- to put his blast into perspective, he hit only 2 HR in 178 at-bats in 1982. Edwards would add to the torment with a sac fly to make it 3-1 in the 4th, while Jim Gantner added a RBI double, to give Brewers a three-run lead.

Bottom of the 5th, the Brew Crew would blow the lid off the cover in this one, with a three-run blast by Ben Oglivie; John Smoltz comes in to relieve Avery, only to give up a solo HR to Don Money. Money would tack on another solo HR late in the game.

Pete Vuckovich did exactly what Brewers management asked of him, keeping Atlanta's scoring limited, while Milwaukee's powerful lineup did its thing, handing Atlanta its first loss of the tournament; Rollie Fingers came in for extra insurance in non-save two-inning performance, as the Brewers win, 9-3.

Interesting Stats: Don Money goes 4-for-4 with two solo HR's, double, single & 4 runs -- while teammate Cecil Cooper went 3-for-4 with two doubles & a run. Deion Sanders is batting 5-for-14 (.357) with 3 stolen bases during the last three games, after starting off 0-for-9 with 5 K's in opening series. Fred McGriff through first 5 games: .368 BA (7-for-19), 2 HR & 5 RBI.

After slow start, Deion is starting to get off & running.

GAME 6 vs 1982 MILWAUKEE BREWERS (at Atlanta)

This game would prove to be a pivotal one; For Bob McCurdy it was game to stay alive (I believe this was his 8th game) after his Brewers pounded us last game, to give us our first loss -- For me, it was, let's keep rolling, let the last game be only a bump in the momentum. 

I found myself being a bit superstitious, everyone moved at some point (in the tourney) at our table, moved to other side or whatever to play their opponent -- My team rolled in same spot throughout the first 10 games. I also kept being in charge of my small APBA binder to read the play results, everyone else was free to use theirs if they liked, but I wanted to keep everything in same place as much as possible. My notebook in same spot, I like rolling on it, and when the page started curling up, I used the cool Tiger leather baseball key chain that my friend Stray Corrado gave to me just games earlier (thanks for the assist, buddy) -- as a paper weight for the curling page to be pinned. While the other team was at bat, I kept my team's lineup resting in my left hand, because when I did place it down on the table, I felt almost naked. I wanted to keep everything as is, because I felt I started changing anything, the results may differ.

In fact, for my tournament run -- my starting lineup was never fluxed once, same starting lineup all 13 games; In previous tournaments, I changed the lineups often, there was no stability, sometimes with teams you will have different successful variations... but this was one of the reasons I chose the 1993 Atlanta Braves, steady consistent lineup after they acquired Fred McGriff, strong bullpen, strong rotation -- The lineup also had a great combination of power & speed, and knew how to get on base.

Cooper's 1982 Topps Baseball Card.

So Game 6 was on its way, I was at home with Tom Glavine (Grade B) against the Brewers' Don Sutton; a battle between two Hall of Fame pitchers.

For the Brewers, they started where they left off, Paul Molitor led the game off with a triple, he would score off a Cecil Cooper sac fly. Ben Oglivie would lead off the 2nd Inning with a double, as Ted Simmons picks up the RBI with a single, I was fortunate to have Don Money hit into a double play to slow that innings momentum down.... Speaking of Money, I thought about using no DH as a option for this game, to take Don Money out of the lineup (especially after his 4-for-4, 2 HR performance in Game 5), also it would have been one less power guy in that powerful lineup -- I was kind of kicking myself for not going with that option after they added more runs during the top of the 3rd.

During that top of the 3rd, Paul Molitor added another hit (a single), Robin Yount would pop out for the second out... but once again, Cecil Cooper strikes again with a RBI double! Cooper is now 4-for-5 against me, with 3 doubles & 2 RBI; Cooper would score his 2nd run of the series as well, as he crossed the plate on Gorman Thomas's two-run home run! After a Ben Oglivie walk, Ted Simmons would fly out to end the bleeding.

Brewers are up early, 5-0.

I will be honest, I was not thrilled with how this game was going down, I was sweating, and starting to hear the footsteps of the competition -- The competition in the other games, had teams in striking distance if we lose here. I really felt that this game was over, Bob was rolling doubles in everything, 11's, 22's, 66's, 44's... you name it!

I don't know if God heard my inner pleas, while entering the bottom of the 3rd -- because my team was absolutely quiet with only one hit, a Jeff Blauser single, up to this point. After a quick out by Damon Berryhill, Mark Lemke would hit a single to right, followed by a Deion Sanders double (Lemke holds at 3rd). Blauser would pop out for the second out. I remember as Ron Gant stepped to the plate, I was thinking come on Ronnie, you got to do something here, you cooled off bud (After reaching base 5 times in first two games, he reached base only 3 times in last three games). So came the dice roll... Three-run homer for Gant! Suddenly, like that, the Braves were back in this ball game -- That is exactly how my day went in a nutshell, someone always stepped up, while others cooled off, for most part it seemed that I had 6-7 guys each game doing well though; Previous tournaments? Two guys in a lineup, maybe three.
Ron Gant was a beast with 5 RBI in Game 6.

The Brewers were suddenly quiet in the 4th & 5th innings; Atlanta would strike again in the 5th, with their fans doing the chop in full force -- One-out double for "Prime Time" Deion Sanders, Jeff Blauser follows with a walk & just like that Ron Gant delivers big again, with two-run double to tie the game up at 5-5! Ron Gant has 5 RBI through 3 at-bats in this one. Fred McGriff is intentionally walked, but then Dave Justice smacks a single to advance McGriff to third base; McGriff would score on Terry Pendleton grounding out -- giving Atlanta a 6-5 lead.

I chose not to flirt with disaster, and go straight to the pen entering the 6th Inning; Jay Howell would be pretty valuable throughout the day, pitching two more scoreless innings in the 6th & 7th (2 K's). Steve Bedrosian would lock down the big Braves comeback with two shut-out innings of his own, with 3 K's to go with it. The bullpen combined only allowed 2 hits in the final four innings.

I'm sure it wasn't easy to suffer a big loss like that for Bob, but he was a really good sport about it, and the division at this point knew that it was looking to be my day.

Interesting Stats: Deion Sanders stays hot with 3 hits & 2 runs, while Ron Gant leads the ambush with a 5-RBI day! Tom Glavine actually gets the win, while putting up some crooked numbers through five innings of work. Cecil Cooper was a thorn in our sides, going 4-for-6, 3 doubles, 2 RBI with 2 runs; Don Money does the polar opposite from previous game, with 0-for-4 performance.

The Braves are now 5-1.

* * * This concludes PART II of the Braves Tournament run, to be continued... * * *

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Champions, Chops & Huge Hops (Part I)


I really couldn't come up with a good title for this series, so the above will have to fly...
so welcome to the Chop Shop!

As I have done for my previous tournament experiences, I would explain the game action that went down during the games of the tournament, as well as the great participants that I had the wonderful privilege of playing.

Due to APBA, I have friends that I consider close friends. My actual home life consists of my wonderful wife & cat, and then work. I don't go out to the local watering hole, and kill time by drinking my worries away, I don't really go out with buddies or have guy time. These APBA tournaments are my guy time. I have met some wonderful fellas through these tournaments, and have had long conversations with these guys throughout the years -- I believe these guys know me better than people I have to work next to day in & day out.

Sure we all come from different backgrounds & may all have different political views -- or even different views on Baseball. We are all different & unique in our special ways, but while we are all together in one place, our unity for our love of all things APBA Baseball shines through.

Woke up at the hotel, Saturday morning... pretty excited! I made sure I was up bright & early at 6 a.m., quick shower, and went downstairs to a disappointing Continental breakfast -- in which the wife & I decided to say screw it, let's get some McDonald's; I wanted to make sure she had a big breakfast, since she was going to be lounging in the hotel all day, while I kick it with my pals at the GMABT.

We were surprised a little by the few inches of snow we received over night, after such a clear sunny day the day before.

The drive over to Gene Davis & Son's Steak Eatery was a little slick on the highway, and for a moment on that last stretch of high way, I was starting to wonder if I past my exit, because I did not remember this stretch being as long as the year before -- Sure enough, I found my exit, and all was familiar looking.

The wife and I -- One strong team that keeps rolling.
I don't know what it was, but for some reason the moment I woke up that day, I knew that my team was going to have a great day. I am not sure how I can properly explain it... Of course, I am not psychic, but I just knew -- maybe other past champions can relate or chime in, I don't know. I knew almost in the same way, as waking up to the morning of my wedding day -- thinking & knowing it was going to be great day; That's the best way I could compare it...

Now am I comparing the tournament day as a equal to my wedding day? Well of course not, Becky (my wife) will always be my greatest victory & I get rewarded every day with her in my life. I had my battles with my faith, and when I started to have my doubts, Becky came into my life, and without a doubt, we both knew that God brought us together. We had a tough year, this past 2015, having her brother living with us for almost 3 years, while her sister (a huge pain in the butt, I may add) joined us the last 4 months at our old place -- It caused a lot of chaos around the house, they simply didn't respect the household rules, and even bailed on their last month of rent.

Our funds were drying up, waiting for the new place (we were moving to) to open up... in which it kept getting delayed -- while living at the current place that was over-priced with only myself working. I also had to make an adjustment to a new job, so we were treading water & we were both pretty stressed. The beauty of Becky & I, is that we always stick together, and never fight -- We make the ultimate team, and we said that 2016 would finally be the year of us.

A Christmas miracle happened when we finally got into the new place on December 18th, we never put up a Christmas Tree -- Our present was having a roof over our head. Due to January being slower in the restaurant business, hours were skimmer, which means the wallet gets leaner. There was a moment until some of our taxes came back, that I wondered if I would make it down to Jackson even.

I honestly believe God keeps making good things happen for us of late, and I wonder looking back at this past weekend, if divine intervention even happened, God works mysterious ways-- But why me? There is other wonderful guys at the tournament as well, with obstacles in their lives as well.. No one's life is smooth as gravy, so why me? The previous day checking in, I was almost charged for only a $1.70 for two nights at the hotel -- which I quickly mentioned the error to the lady at the service desk, but I'm an honest guy in general, so was I being rewarded? I'm not sure.. I like to think that the fact that I have a wonderful wife, a roof over my head, and great friends, that I've already been rewarded.

Anyways, back to Gene Davis's (thanks for letting me ramble)...

Feeling good about my team may have started the night before (our exhibition against Ken Schulz's 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates) as mentioned in my Road to Jackson post -- while my 1993 Atlanta Braves opened up the tournament playing the 1983 Chicago White Sox, against my new friend Greg Tews. I had the wonderful privilege of having dinner with Greg and Rich, Friday night at this nice Chinese restaurant, along with my wife -- little did I know at the time that I would be playing him Saturday.

GAME 1 at 1983 CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Each opening game of each series of the tournament would open up with a dice roll for home-field in the first game; The home team gets to choose DH/or no DH as well -- Greg won the dice roll, and elected to be home for Game 1.

LaMarr Hoyt (A-YZ) would take the mound for the White Sox, while I countered with my ace Greg Maddux (A-XZ). Hoyt won the 1983 American League Cy Young with a 24-10 record, 3.66 ERA & 148 K's in 260.2 innings, he would have a few more productive seasons before drug issues destroyed his career; All Padres fans will remember their trade blunder with Chicago in acquiring Hoyt in exchange for Ozzie Guillen (who would win 1985 A.L. Rookie-of-the-Year), pitchers Tim Lollar & Bill Long, and Luis Salazar.

Fred McGriff starts things off.
With a hint of things to come, Fred McGriff led off the top of the second with a solo homer, while David Justice launched a two-run homer in the fourth, to give the Braves a 3-0 lead. The White Sox would get a run back in the 5th with a RBI single by Rudy Law. McGriff strikes again with RBI double in 6th; The Braves would add further damage in 9th with two insurance RBI doubles, one by Damon Berryhill and Mark Lemke. That was kind of my luck in the tourney, every one at some point in the championship run played a factor at some point; Lemke was not much of a factor for the tournament overall, batting only .122 with a .408 OPS & 3 RBI -- He would start every game though, to give my team just enough for a fielding one with his Grade 8 on defense (compared to Bill Pecota's fielding 7), as long as I had a fielding 2 pitcher on the mound.

My Braves won the first game, 6-1, as Maddux allowed only 5 hits, 1 walk & 1 run in a complete-game victory; Hoyt would get 9 K's, but allow 6 hits & 6 runs in complete-game loss.

Interesting Game Stats: Ron Gant would draw three consecutive walks, while Deion Sanders struck out 4 times.

GAME 2 vs 1983 CHICAGO WHITE SOX (at Atlanta)

Pendleton's 93' Donruss MVP.
The Atlanta Braves would be quieter with Floyd Bannister (B-XZ)on the mound for the White Sox; The Braves selected Steve Avery (B-YZ) to be their #2 starter. The rotation I decided to go with was Greg Maddux (A-XZ), Avery & Tom Glavine (B) for my third starter; Leaving John Smoltz (B-X) to come out of the pen.

My reasons for the rotation is this, I need to have Z's in the rotation, because tournaments are loaded with talented teams & talented teams know how to get on base -- So eliminate the walk whenever possible; My other choice is that John Smoltz in real-life was the only pitcher of the bunch to have a successful bullpen career, plus Glavine would just look silly running out from the bullpen. Sure I would love to have showcase the Hall of Fame rotation, but at the same time, there needs to be some strategy, a walk here, or a play here, or a few fielding points less here all can accumulate losses & create more chances for the opposition -- So I chose to eliminate as many possibilities as possible.

Back to the game, both teams would be silent through 4 innings, until the Atlanta Braves got on the board during the bottom of the 5th; Sid Bream led the inning off with a dice roll 33-0, in which it would go to the second column with a dice-roll of 66 -- HOME RUN! Right?!

#2 Starter Avery: The Kid is Alright!
Nope, not so fast, Mr.Bream... second column result was a '2' for triple -- interesting since he hit 9 HR's in 277 at-bats, but it turns out he had only one triple all year, so the rare feat was accomplished... All I could think is that ball must have rolled quickly to the deepest corner and deflected just right, where the fielder over ran it -- but according to the APBA booklet, it was hit to left center... then again slow Ron Kittle is playing left (and must have been too shallow). Mark Lemke would knock in Bream with a RBI double to tie it.

Terry Pendleton, who next to Lemke, would be my other lousy tournament hitter, makes his mark count though with a solo HR off Bannister in the 7th -- That would be the difference, as Steve Bedrosian would lock down a two-inning save with 3 K's; Braves win 2-1.

Sid Bream went 2-for-3 with a triple & run.

The White Sox had some opportunities, Top of the 4th was a prime example, with bases loaded, and one out, Ron Kittle would hit into a inning-ending double play.

Interesting Stats: Greg Luzinski gets plunked twice in the game, while getting plunked in Game 1 as well for the White Sox. John Smoltz gets the win for only 1/3 innings of action in top of 7th. Ron Gant draws his 4th walk (while reaching base 5 times) in the series, while Deion Sanders (0-for-9) struck out a 5th time in the series. On a personal note, this was the first time in my tournament career that I started a tournament off, 2-0.

GAME 3 vs 2015 LOS ANGELES DODGERS (at Atlanta)

In recent tournaments, the Los Angeles Dodgers of the 2010's have had some pretty good success; The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers reached the Final in the 2015 Toledo Glass City APBA Baseball Tournament, while I believe the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers have also had success... So I had my eyes open for this match-up prior to tournament, who knows how this team will play. The man leading the charge for the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers is Mike Pryson, who happens to live in the Jackson area.

It was a battle between the #3 starting pitchers from each team, Brett Anderson of the Dodgers & Tom Glavine (Grade B) of the Braves; Anderson would be the only Grade C that I would face in the tournament.

The Dodgers would strike first with an RBI single by Andre Ethier in the first inning, while the Braves would answer back in a huge way in the bottom half; Deion Sanders led off with his first hit of the tournament (stealing 2nd), while Jeff Blauser would hit him in with a double. Ron Gant would add to the Dodgers troubles with a RBI single (then stealing 2nd), and Fred McGriff piled on with a two-run HR; The Braves drop a 4-spot on the Dodgers, and this would not be the only time in tournament play that the Braves would score 4+ in an inning.

Terry Pendleton would add some insurance with a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th, that run would pay off later, as the Dodgers would inch closer with a run in the 5th & 8th innings. With a 5-3 lead in the top of the 9th for the Braves, Atlanta would call on Steve Bedrosian (A&C-YZ) to close out the game. After a quick strikeout of Yasiel Puig, Enrique Hernandez would hit a solo HR off of "Bedrock"; With two outs, Dodgers decide to have young phenomenon Kyle Seager to pinch-hit for Jimmy Rollins -- Bedrosian & the Braves would intentionally walk him instead.

Glavine pitches 6 strong innings for the Braves.
Tom Glavine was in control allowing only 2 hits, 2 runs with 3 walks through 6 innings -- including 7 strikeouts.

Interesting Stats: Deion Sanders collects two hits, after an 0-9 start. Fred McGriff is 2-for-4 with a two-run HR, while Terry Pendleton hits a HR for the second consecutive game. The Dodgers collectively draw 6 walks, but hit into a couple double plays and into a couple force outs to slow down any sort of rally & yet still fall just short, 5-4.

GAME 4 at 2015 LOS ANGELES DODGERS

It was a dream match-up of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (A-XZ) against Clayton Kershaw 
(A-KZ) who is off to a wonderful start to his MLB career & may be calling Cooperstown his home someday as well. Prior to the start of the game, Mike mentioned that this game will be a quick one, and for the most part it was.

Maddux was dealing, allowing only 3 hits.
Early on, the pitchers were dueling it out -- Entering the 6th, Kershaw only allowed one hit, a single to Jeff Blauser in the first, while Maddux for Atlanta, was pitching a no-hitter through 6 innings. As we entered the bottom of the 7th, Mike decides to jinx it by mentioning the no-hitter verbally that it was taking place, I was trying to keep my lips sealed... the very next dice roll, Adrian Gonzalez delivers a single to right -- I jokingly said "Hey, man you jinxed me", and he mentioned "Sorry man, I had to do something, I need to get something going." It's all good, all part of the strategy, I'll give him props there.

At that point, with the broken-up no-hitter, my Braves had a 3-0 lead; Back in the top of the 6th, Jeff Blauser delivered a two-run HR, while Fred McGriff added a RBI single.

Atlanta would add insurance runs in the top of the ninth, with a solo HR by David Justice (his 2nd HR of the tournament, at this point) -- with additional runs coming from a Damon Berryhill RBI double & RBI single by Deion Sanders.

Greg Maddux was lights out with a three-hit shutout performance of the Dodgers, with 9 K's & 3 walks allowed; Clayton Kershaw would rack up 13 K's in a losing complete-game performance, allowing 8 hits, 2 walks & 6 earned runs -- running out of steam the last 4 innings, compared to excellent start. Braves win, 6-0.

Interesting Stats: Off to 4-0 start in the Carl Yastrzemski Division at this point, with a scoring differential of +13; Outscoring the Dodgers and White Sox, 19-6... I was definitely enjoying the results in my head, but wanted to keep cool & not get overly excited with 6 games still remaining. Terry Pendleton's most productive stretch of the tournament would be Games 2 through 4, batting 3-for-10, with 2 solo HR's & a double -- Other than that, Pendleton's performance was that of a .158 hitter through 38 at-bats. Adrian Gonzalez logged the most hits against the Braves in two games, with only two hits.


* * * This concludes PART I of the Braves Tournament run, to be continued... * * *

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Say Yes to Greater Michigan! (GMABT II)

The scene at the GMABT II (Gene Davis & Sons Steak Eatery).
Once again, the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (2nd Annual) was a success, led by Pastor Rich Zawadzki -- you will not find a better stand-out guy in Rich; Not only, am I glad he is a friend of mine, but I'm glad his love for APBA shines brightly, and that he is one of the APBA pillars that have made this APBA community stronger. In many ways, he probably gets the biggest reward when he sees all the smiles, on all of our faces.

These tournaments really transport us to a Field of Dreams -- where we can relive our youth. Some teams are teams that fell short of real-life championship glory, so our belief in those teams, drive us to get some sort of redemption for those players; My division alone had a handful of those teams (1993 Atlanta Braves, 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, 1983 Chicago White Sox & 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers) while other divisions were peppered with them as well (1997 Cleveland Indians, 1934 Detroit Tigers, 1975 Boston Red Sox, etc etc); Sometimes there are teams that have been hurt due to cruel fate (1994 Montreal Expos - Due to the strike). Sometimes people take lovable losing ball-clubs to these tourneys, say the 1969 Seattle Pilots for example -- which inspired some of the tourney heads to discuss the possibilities of a sub-.500 tournament some time.

The beautiful trophy (on right), John Roel's 2015 championship
on left, with some prizes for this year's participants up front.
The magic of these tournaments is to watch middle-aged men get to be kids again, while at the same time we had some young fellows at the tourneys in attendance as well. I tried to explain the atmosphere to my wife, she got a pretty good feeling how it is, when she can see my smile expanding from ear-to-ear or at dinner the other night with Rich and friend Greg Tews (whenever us guys spoke of the game); To ensure her of the electricity in the air, I just showed her some APBA videos made by my friend Ron Emch... my wife laughed at me in this year's video, lost in the APBA zone, while rolling away... "I've seen that look before," she said as she watched.


Now some of you may be reading all this above, and thinking to yourself...

Didn't this guy write the same about this tournament & that tournament, and this other tournament?


Why... yes! Because all of these tournaments are ALWAYS FUN! I have yet to go to a APBA tournament or hear of an APBA tournament that was not fun -- in fact, I believe it is simply impossible. The fact is being in the company of so many APBA enthusiasts & friends (while making new friends) makes these tournaments infectious, the fun is infectious! Yes, it's the APBA plague and I truly love it.

Once in awhile, I will read someone posting on the APBA Facebook Group...
I wished to make one of those tournaments someday.

My advice? Do it, no more excuses, because let me tell you, once you do, you do not want to miss one... and when you do miss one, you are happy for the ones that did make it, while sitting there thinking... I wish I was there.

Sometimes things come up, I have canceled before for financial short-comings, and it sucks because you want to be there so badly... Sometimes weather and flu ailments can play factors as well -- We missed you Doug Schuyler & (I wished that I got to meet you) Kurt Berglund, these two guys know how it feels to be around a great APBA community... for those who have yet to do be in such great company, you need to experience that for yourself.

Anyways, now onto the tournament itself, here was the division set-ups...



As you can see, 36 teams, 8 divisions of 6 teams each -- 3 Division winners & one wild card from each league advance to the playoffs. Due to two cancellations, the number was 34 teams, each team would get 2 wins & two games of +3 run differential for forfeited teams, which is fair. 

34 or 36 teams, with so many good teams -- does not make it any easier. My other two tournament experiences, I felt I picked stellar teams (1912 New York Giants & 1917 Chicago White Sox), but it has simply resulted in a career 5-7 record.. because other people have stellar teams as well, and sometimes its a play here-and-there, hot dice rolling or cold rolling, run differential in tie-breakers that all can play a difference in the outcome. It's simply luck while making tough managing decisions. Your number one goal (which is mine) is to always have fun & just enjoy the atmosphere -- my next goal is that I wanted to get into the playoffs....

I was happy either way.

Onto some of the highlights, the number one highlight had to be when Robert Mosher with the 1988 Mets & David Cone pitched a no-hitter in his opening series... Later, I found out that another person through a no-hitter, when I asked who? Someone pointed to the table and mentioned that kid -- I realized that it was Robert's grandson Cameron Shaeffer; Shaeffer pitched one with the 1916 Detroit Tigers' Stan Coveleski

The biggest highlight was what happened after, moments later, I ran into Robert, and I looked at him and said "You didn't tell me that your grandson also pitched a no-no!" -- and much to my (and Robert's) surprise, Robert's face lit up with joy, and he said "He did?!?"

Nothing will top that, to see the joy in a grandfather's face of an accomplishment by his grandson -- Proud papa, and a family sharing the love of APBA. By the way, Cameron's no-no was almost a perfect game, he walked the lead-off batter in the 9th. 

Mosher Magic: Cameron Shaeffer (Grandson) and Robert Mosher (Grandpa); No-Hitters in Jackson.


After a wonderful lunch, the day kept moving, but some games were still dragging, and the tournament was finding itself in a time crunch; Our tournament administrator handled it beautifully and we all followed his lead to the venue relocation to his beautiful church - Loomis Park Baptist Church.

The day for me? The whole day was a dream come true, I will get into further detail about the championship run in future blog posts to come -- but I really don't want to upstage this event post at all possible. I will say this, I did start off 4-0, before a good pounding by Bob McCurdy's 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (Don Money: 4-for-4, 2 solo HR's, double, single & 4 runs) to suffer my first loss, I would make a great come-from-behind win in our second game against each other to spark another 4-game win streak; I won the Carl Yastrzemski Division with an 8-2 record.

Here is the playoff results provided by Rich Zawadzki via APBA Facebook Group...



Here is a little details about the playoff action...

I would play the first round against Cameron's 1916 Detroit Tigers, with Hooks Dauss against Steve Avery for my Braves. My Braves had an early 3-0 lead, and 4-1 lead after 6 innings, but he would make a rally in the 8th with two-run single by Harry Heilmann in top of 8th, to cut it down to 4-3. Atlanta would answer back with an RBI single by Sid Bream & sac fly by Mark Lemke; Steve Bedrosian would come into the 9th for his 4th Save of the tournament.

The Final Four: Rich Zawadzki, Shawn Baier (myself), Robert Mosher & Dick Butler.

The next game was Wendell Watkins' 1969 Baltimore Orioles, Wendell & his brother David Watkins had to catch a train though, so Rich Zawadzki had to play in his place. 

I will go into detail for this game at least.

Before diving into the game, let me tell you that Wendell is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, but his teams have been mean to me, LOL! His 1962 San Francisco Giants swept me two games, to hand me a 1-3 record (went on to 2-4) in last year's GMABT -- so I was worried. The highlight of this game was the fact that it would be the first time that Rich & I would play face-to-face in APBA Baseball -- first time in our 3-year (nearly 4-yr) friendship, so I was excited to finally get the chance to play against him & that beautiful dice tower. 

Wendell (left) with his 62' Giants taking it to my 1917 White Sox last year.

The Orioles were rolling pretty good, Andy Etchebarren's RBI single in second gave them a early 1-0 lead, and I was fortunate to have just allowed that. Through the first 5 innings, he had 5 hits, my Braves up to that point only had a Damon Berryhill double; Our two pitchers were Grade B-YZ Dave McNally (BAL) and Tom Glavine (ATL) - Grade B.

We were fortunate to get a RBI single by Ron Gant during the bottom of the 6th to tie the game, but the O's kept battling back... Brooks Robinson led off the top of the 7th with a solo HR off of Avery; Now let me tell you about Brooks, he does not like me, in my Crazy 48's project, he started off like 3-for-62, and is currently batting .081 through 74 at-bats (6 hits) & with no homers by the way... then he does this to me in such a big game.

Entering the bottom of the 7th, Rich brought in that tough Baltimore bullpen, starting with Dick Hall (A-ZZ), Braves go down 1-2-3, striking out twice; Hall in the eighth adds another K, while mowing through the Braves again 1-2-3. Things were starting to look bleak and Rich brought in Eddie Watt (A&C-Y), I honestly thought that was it, when Jeff Blauser (ground out) and Ron Gant (Fly out) ended their at-bats quickly. When Fred McGriff stepped to the plate, I gently spoke to the card "Come on Fred... put it over the fence", he didn't do that, but he did get a single to keep hopes alive. 

Then David Justice came up to the plate, who by the way, has a bizarre card, power card (single columns) with a 22 (dice roll) -7 (result) & no 6's -- so one part of me is wanting a double to score the tying run, but there is no doubles to be had, or at least in this situation... Stepping to the plate, I roll the dice, but one of them fell off the table, re-roll... In that moment of the re-roll, I let those dice bounce around in my hand maybe longer than usual, thought the time was right to release, and I couldn't believe the result.. Home Run! I hung my head down with a huge sigh of relief, just couldn't believe it, I think Rich was just as excited as me, offering his hand in congratulation for my accomplishment. 

The Championship Game itself, was against the 1988 New York Mets, led by Robert Mosher. This would be the first time rolling against Robert face-to-face, he faced my brother Chris Baier in the playoffs last year; Robert also is a member of my Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League [APBA BBW] and won the World Series in the league's second year of existence with his Fairgrove Tigers.

Shaking hands with Robert Mosher (left) before starting the GMABT II Final.
It would end up being anti-climatic compared to the game before. Justice would pick up where he left off, with a three-run HR to add to another run in the bottom of the 1st; The Braves would put up another 4-spot in the bottom of the 2nd, and Atlanta was up early 8-0 -- I left Greg Maddux the entire time, his A-XZ was still in tact, despite giving up 6 runs sporadically.. so his tournament ERA of 2.54 (through 5 starts) could be better, but I didn't want to be bush-league and bring relievers in a game that was sealed early. It's odd because I was still expecting the Mets to go on some offensive outburst, so I was not going to exhale until the last out.

We would win the game 13-6, with Dave Justice going 2-for-5 (HR, 3B), while Ron Gant was 2-for-4 (two-run HR & 2B) -- each had 4 RBI in the final.

Shawn Baier (myself) holding that beautiful trophy.

Afterwards, I was on cloud nine.

Next year, for the 3rd Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament, it's the dead-ball era (1901-1919) with no designated hitter (I will get more info on that tournament in future post)... So for me, it will be back to some tournament familiarity of playing with dead-ball teams, since the 1993 Braves were my first tournament choice of a live-ball team ever. In March 2017, I will be taking the 1901 Pittsburgh Pirates -- the competition is already steep with talented teams & participants...

as always, it should be a blast!

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Road to Jackson (Lead-up to GMABT II)

As you readers all know, I always like to do a tournament results post, on the face-to-face tournament action. APBA-Heads from all over will drive remarkable distances to these tourneys to all bath in the APBA madness that takes place. Thankfully, these tourneys are headed by the likes of such great guys such as Rich Zawadzki, Doug Schuyler, Ron Emch, Ken Schulz, Jim Fraasch & others -- So big hats off to these guys that add to our sickness.

As you all know, it's March, which means we are now talking of the recent tournament in Jackson, Michigan -- The 2nd Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament, hosted by Pastor Rich. The venue took place once again at Gene Davis and Sons Steaks Eatery, a wonderful setting, and truly thankful that they let us host this event there -- excellent service.

For me, Friday morning couldn't have come quick enough to hit the road. The wife & I woke up early at 6:45 a.m., we would leave the apartment at 7:45, hit Wal-Mart for a few travel items between 8:00 - 8:30am. We got to the airport, where the rent-a-car place was located -- Only to find out that we may need more cash, due to the lady earlier in the week giving us the wrong rates. So we headed off to a Cash Advance place, filled out paperwork, finally got money, went to the bank, deposited the money. We make our return to the Airport across town to the rental place, only to then find that our credit report came up negative to rent a car; We would check another rental car place, right across the hall, and after hearing their high rates, the wife and I decided to risk our "junker."

To make sure our car would make the trip, we then went & waited at a Oil Change place, for nearly a half-hour before we were served. Finally got our car levels topped off, and headed back to the apartment to get our luggage... because we thought we would be renting a car, and once we had the rent-a-car, we would drop the car back off at the apartment -- so we did not have our luggage on us.

Got back to the apartment, loaded up the junker, grabbed drive-thru at the edge of town (because by this point, we were hungry) and finally left town at noon in Traverse City, Michigan.

Hopefully, I didn't bore you with all that... the wife and I were in great spirits, despite the late start, and we learned from it.

According to Mapquest, our destination was 3 hours and 40 minutes away; The travel day could not be more beautiful with the sun and dry roads, I think we hit Alma within 2 hours, and made it to Jackson just before 3:30 with two stops (Rest Area & Gas station, restroom break) -- so the drive was basically 3 hours (not counting the stops). It's a smooth & fun drive down, and makes me more excited about future trips. Plus my wife riding shotgun is the best travel companion anyone could ask for.

We get to the hotel, to purchase a room for two nights ($170), I get the receipt, and the receipt says $1.70... I'm an honest person, so I brought up the mistake to the lady behind the desk, they were flattered that I noticed the mistake & corrected it. Also, I believe God can be rewarding to those that our honest and carry themselves in a positive way... positive thoughts & acts can lead to positive results.

Money can be tight while you prepare for these tournaments, but in the end it is always worth every penny! Going to the Cash Advance place earlier in the day actually opened up our pocket books much more, so we chose to stay at a hotel (on the hotel strip) on Shirley Drive, and I knew that some of the APBA guys would be staying at the hotels close by... in case we all wanted to get together and roll a few bones before Saturday morning's event.

From our hotel room, I flagged the boys down on the APBA Facebook Group, mentioned that the wife and I were getting hungry & that we were going to head out to eat. Rich messaged me quickly, and asked what we preferred -- the wife had a urge for Chinese. Rich suggested New Country China Buffet, got directions, and we all met at the restaurant, our friend (and tournament participant) Greg Tews joined us as well -- Had an excellent meal, great dinner discussion in a relaxing set-up; The food was excellent.

At the restaurant, Rich lent me his 1993 Atlanta Braves. My 1993 APBA Baseball Card set is somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, or otherwise known as the Baier Family attic at my folk's place. A week ago, I realized the terror of not being able to play my Braves, messaged Rich, and as always Rich came through again... So thankful! Because I had my heart on playing this team, and I didn't want to be in a position where I changed teams last second -- it would not be fair to the division I had to play as well... but it all worked out.

After dinner, the wife and I returned to our hotel by 7:30 p.m., and for a little bit there, it appeared that no pre-tourney meetings between APBA brothers was going to take place, and then around 9:30 pm, the Schulz boys (Ken & Darren Schulz with their cousin Tucker) arrived at their hotel next door, and got settled in. I arrived at 10 pm, which we shot the bull, and talked APBA (of course). Ken & I, decided to get in a pre-tourney exhibition between his 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates and my 1993 Atlanta Braves. Our friend Robert Mosher & his grandson, Cameron would knock on the hotel room and join us -- Darren and Tucker were meanwhile playing a league game involving 2000 APBA Season cards.

For the exhibition itself, Ken and I had great discussion about the Jim Leyland Pirates, how Andy Van Slyke and Barry Bonds hated each other, and Sid Bream breaking the hearts of Pittsburgh nation; Darren added that he will always have love for the guy regardless. During the APBA game, we joked that Bream would score the winning run; After a early 4-1 lead by Atlanta, Pittsburgh would tie the game in the top of the 8th, with a two-run double by Willie Stargell -- The game would go to extras, and after a Terry Pendleton double in the bottom of the 13th, Sid Bream would finalize it with a two-run walk-off homerun!

After getting our (93' Braves) feet wet, Ken mentioned that the 1993 Braves will be tough to beat tomorrow... I had a really good feeling just with the exhibition and after playing the team, I felt he may be right.

It was a quarter til midnight, when Robert, Cameron and myself departed for our rooms, and all called it a night... because tomorrow morning was tournament time!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ready to Roll!

The Braves' Big Three: Glavine, Smoltz & Maddux.

For the second consecutive year, I will be making my travels to Jackson, Michigan for the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (GMABT) -- Hosted by my friend, Rich Zawadzki. During the event, I will be reunited with other friends, while meeting new friends.

Really excited! Also, it's just another sign that Baseball and Spring is around the corner as well. Last year, I went to the event with my brother Chris Baier (meeting up with him in Grand Rapids) -- in which, I witnessed my brother go to battle in the championship game of the tournament with his 2006 Detroit Tigers against John Roel's 1937 New York Yankees (John eventually won the tournament). I did not have as much luck, going 2-4 in the opening round with the 1917 Chicago White Sox.

This year I will be making my travels with my wife, Becky -- and I will be meeting up with some friends the evening (Friday night) before as well, for the big event she has decided she would stay at the hotel (playing her favorite online game Wizard 101). I momentarily ran into a snag as my folks buried some APBA sets in their attic somewhere... Luckily, Rich had the 1993 Atlanta Braves I could borrow for the tournament.

I would have loved to dress the part, but tight on money, I was not able to update my Atlanta Braves attire (which now stands as nil); Back in the day, I had a Braves hat or two, plus a Fred McGriff uniform shirt as well -- that shirt would be great today, since McGriff did play on that 1993 team.

That Atlanta Braves team went 49-16 during its last 65 games to edge the San Francisco Giants at the end of the season with 104 wins to the Giants' 103 wins; That winning percentage during that stretch clocks at .754, just under the .756 winning pct that the 1906 Chicago Cubs (for an entire season).

For those that know me, I am a Detroit Tigers fan, while I am also a big fan of the Atlanta Braves, more for the Atlanta teams that I grew up with -- I always had a soft spot for them, even during the 1980's when there was not much winning going on for Bob Horner, Dale Murphy, Glenn Hubbard & the boys..

Then came the summer of 1991, my folks just sold the house downstate in Waterford, Michigan & we were bouncing around from campground to campground, while my folks went house-hunting -- Listening and reading about that 1991 Braves team all summer long was excited, plus the emergence of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz & Steve Avery with a MVP season by Terry Pendleton made it a unbelievable season, then catching the Dodgers, and then going straight to the series... Last to First, a new love was born.

Bobby Cox & the boys.
During the 1990's while my Tigers started going through dark (may I mention un-watchable) times, the Atlanta Braves were my team, and it was only fitting that I would be stationed at Ft.Gordon, Georgia (just outside of Augusta) and being close to my team -- I would go to two games, wished that I saw more while down there.

The 1993 team for me, was the best of the entire bunch... yes, 1995 holds a spot of course (because they sealed the deal) -- but on paper, and also in play, I think the 1993 Atlanta Braves are the most rounded of the bunch. It was also painful to see the Braves surrender a 2-0 series lead in 1996 to the New York Yankees -- I feel those Yankees were a little ahead of their time, and that they snatched Atlanta's well-deserved title.

I'm really looking forward to reliving my youth, and although it will be definite joy with all my friends there -- I hope that there is more on-field joy than pain this time around...

Time to bring out the tomahawks!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2015 BoS Award Winners

Abreu chased triple crown in rookie year.
With all the results in for the Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League (BoS), we have some history in the making on a couple of players -- I believe most people saw this coming...

Corktown's Jose Abreu became the first player in BoS history to win MVP & Rookie-of-the-Year in the same season, winning both A.L. awards -- while in the National League, Clayton Kershaw became the first player in BoS history to win the Cy Young & MVP in the same season.

Jose Abreu (76 votes) ran away with the A.L. MVP Award, the runner-up David Ortiz (Chicago) had 20 votes, with Victor Martinez (Swatara) placing 3rd (18). The National League vote was closer, Clayton Kershaw wins with 41 votes, while Seattle's Michael Brantley finished with 34 votes; T.C.'s Miguel Cabrera placed 3rd (26) & Mike Trout - 4th (21).

I personally wished that there was more of a push for Dellin Betances in the A.L. Cy Young category, because I thought the guy was just a beast for Chicago... but that's why we vote, right? Betances does get 28 votes though, but his teammate Felix Hernandez walks away with the hardware with 61 votes -- placing 2nd was the Spartans' Jon Lester with 46 votes. 

Betances does take home a trophy though, winning the A.L. Fireman of the Year Award (67 votes) over Joaquin Benoit's 45; Betances finishes 2nd in ROY with 46 votes, while Fairgrove's Yordana Ventura was 3rd with 17 votes.

Kershaw had a epic season for the Kings.
Clayton Kershaw won the N.L. Cy Young (as mentioned above) with a pair of Panthers following at 2nd & 3rd place... Corey Kluber was the runner-up at 34, while Adam Wainwright (acquired mid-season from Kingsley) finished with 18 votes.

The N.L. Rookie of the Year went to Corey Dickerson who finished with 78 votes, running away with the award over the next best player in Jeurys Familia (S.D.) with 20 votes -- his Heroes teammate Collin McHugh would finish 3rd with 14 votes.

The N.L. Fireman of the Year Award went to Greg Holland (Holland) with 73 votes, with Wade Davis (T.C.) finishing a distant 2nd (37) & Jonathan Papelbon (13) -- The only other reliever to receive votes in that category was Kelvin Herrera with 2 votes.

Now onto the BoS's best skippers....

Congrats to the A.L's choice in Stray Corrado (67 votes) of the Chicago Nine, and to the N.L's Brad Stark (64 votes). Stark (Portland Microbrewers) becomes the first BoS Manager to win the award twice now, winning it a second consecutive year. Brandon Matlock would finish as runner-up in A.L. with 40 votes (Matt Hoeppner of the Spartans - 3rd with 37 votes), while in the N.L. both Thomas Nelshoppen (Urbana) & Shawn Baier (Traverse City) finished tied at 40 votes. I believe all the managers had received first-place votes in the voting process.
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